Companion Animals: Service Animals
Janush v. Charities Housing Development Corp.
169 F.Supp.2d 1133
United States District Court, N.D. California, 2000
FACTS: Plaintiff, Brenda Janush, signed a rental agreement for an apartment in Pensione Esperanza, a low-income building run by CDH, a non-profit corporation. The rental agreement contains a “no pet” clause. Janush did not alert CDH as to the presence of her animals prior to moving into the apartment. A maintenance worker discovered the animals and after an agreement as to the animals presence could not be reached, Janush was served with eviction papers. Janush suffers from a severe mental health disability. Janush’s psychiatrist testified that plaintiff’s pets, two birds and two cats, are necessary to her mental health. Janush is suing for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
ISSUES: Can possession of non-service animals be reasonable accommodations for disabled persons?
HOLDING: Yes, possession of a non-service animal may be a reasonable accommodation. The court rejected a bright line rule that would require an animal be a service animal to be considered a necessary accommodation. Instead, the court ruled that whether an animal is a necessary accommodation is a fact-specific inquiry in which costs and benefits specific to the case must be weighed. Summary judgment was denied and the case remanded for the lower court to analyze the burdens imposed on CDH and the benefits received by Janush.
Housing Authority of the City of New London v. Tarrant
1997 WL 30320
Superior Court of Connecticut, 1997
FACTS: Defendant Tori Tarrant and her son housed a dog in their home. Neighbors complained to the Housing Authority that the dog was a nuisance; she had not been spayed, had no proof of vaccinations, had two litters of puppies that were kept in the dwelling, and barked, and that the Tarrants did not clean up after her. The Housing Authority sought to evict the animal, but Tarrant objected stating her son is mentally challenged and required the companionship of the dog pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Tarrant cited her son’s poor grades subsequent to losing the dog as proof that the dog was a reasonable accommodation to his disability.
ISSUES: Was there sufficient proof that the dog was a reasonable accommodation for Tarrant’s son’s disability under the Rehabilitation Act?
HOLDING: No, Tarrant did not offer psychological or medical proof that her son was mentally disabled and required a companion animal for that disability. Tarrant offered her son’s declining report cards as proof that the companion animal helped his mental disability. The court found that the grades were not sufficient evidence that her son had a mental disability or that the companion animal was a reasonable accommodation of that injury. The court held that psychological and medical evidence was needed to prove that Tarrant’s son had a disability and that the dog was a reasonable accommodation.
Access Now, Inc. v. Town of Jasper, Tennessee
268 F.Supp.2d 973
United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, At Chattanooga, 2003
FACTS: Plaintiff, Pamela Kitchens, acting on behalf of her daughter, Tiffany Masterson, sued the town of Jasper, Tennessee, in which they reside. The town of Jasper fined Kitchens for violating a city ordinance by keeping a miniature horse in her home. Kitchens filed for a permit with the city asking for permission to keep the horse, but her request was declined. Kitchens claimed that the miniature horse was a service animal that helped her daughter, who suffers from spina bifida. Kitchens contended that Tiffany needed the horse to help her move around and that the town violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by not allowing Masterson to keep the miniature horse as a service animal.
ISSUES: Did the Town fail to provide a reasonable modification to Tiffany in violation of Title II of the ADA?
HOLDING: No, the town of Jasper did not violate the ADA. Plaintiffs failed to prove that Tiffany is disabled as defined in the ADA. The court rules that although Tiffany does have a disability, to be defined as disabled under the Act the plaintiffs must show that she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of her major life activities. Kitchens failed to prove this, and there was evidence that Tiffany had no problem walking, standing, or caring for herself. Kitchens also failed to prove that the miniature horse was a service animal under the ADA. The Act defines a service animal as any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a disabled person. The court ruled that although the horse may have some training and be well behaved around Tiffany, it is not a service animal because it does not perform tasks for her benefit. The Court held that because Tiffany is not disabled under the ADA and the miniature horse is a pet and not a service animal, the Town did not violate the ADA and had no obligation to allow Kitchens to keep the horse in the house.
DuBois v. Association of Apartment Owners of 2987 Kalakaua
453 F.3d 1175
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 2006
FACTS: Condominium residents and roommates Dubois and Prindable sued the condo association under the Fair Housing Act for the association’s failure to exempt their English Bulldog Einstein under the condominium association’s no-pet rule.
ISSUES: Did the condo association discriminate against plaintiffs when they refused to allow them to keep Einstein as a reasonable accommodation for one of the tenant’s mental illness?
HOLDING: No, the District Court’s motion to dismiss is upheld. Plaintiff Prindable adequately established his handicap through various letters from physicians asserting he has depression and anxiety and that a companion animal is a viable treatment option. The FHA includes service animals as necessary accommodations, but the court uses a common understanding of service animal to include only guide dogs or animals with special training. The fact that Einstein provided comfort to Prindable was not enough to establish him as a service animal; his lack of individual training excludes him from that category. The court further found that by temporarily allowing Einstein to reside in plaintiffs’ condo, the association had not yet discriminated against Prindable.
Crossroads Apartments Associates v. LeBoo
152 Misc.2d 830
City Court of Rochester, 1991
FACTS: Landlord, Crossroads Apartments Associates, seek to evict tenant Kenneth LeBoo for possession of a cat in conflict with the lease that prohibits tenants from keeping pets in the apartment at all times. LeBoo contends that he has a mental illness and the cat is necessary for him to cope with the illness and the eviction is a violation of the Fair Housing Act and Rehabilitation Act.
ISSUES: Was there enough evidence to conclude that eviction did not violate the Fair Housing Act or Rehabilitation Act in summary judgment?
HOLDING: No, there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the cat is necessary for LeBoo’s use and enjoyment of his apartment, thus making summary judgment inappropriate. The court ruled that in order to establish that there was a violation of the Fair Housing Act or Rehabilitation Act LeBoo would need to establish that he has an emotional and psychological attachment to the cat which requires him to keep the cat in the apartment. LeBoo submitted affidavits from individuals who made this claim, which were in opposition to the affidavits made by Crossroads’ psychologist. This conflict demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact; the court remanded to the trial court to decide this factual dispute.
In re Kenna Homes Cooperative Corporation
210 W.Va. 380
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, 2001
FACTS: J.L and Bernice Jessup purchased a home from Kenna Homes Cooperative with their Yorkie dog. Subsequent to their move, Kenna Homes passed a by-law that prohibited the purchase of new companion animals, with the exception of properly trained service animals. When the Jessup’s Yorkie died, they obtained two new dogs. The Jessup’s petitioned Kenna Homes to allow the dogs as a reasonable accommodation to their disabilities. Kenna Homes denied the petition and filed a petition for declaratory judgment.
ISSUES: Does the requirement that a service animal be properly trained violate the Fair Housing Act?
HOLDING: No, the provision that a service animal be properly trained is valid. The court held that it is valid to require that a service animal be individually trained and work for the benefit of the disabled person in order to be considered a reasonable accommodation of that person’s disability. The person claiming the need for the service animal has the burden of proving these requirements. Further, a landlord may require the disabled tenant to produce in writing proof from the trainer that the animal has been individually trained, and a statement from a licensed physician, specializing in that disability, that the service animal in question is a necessary for that person’s disability.